A great idea for those with a glut of plums at their disposal.
I’ve been lucky enough to get greengages, that wonderful plum with an exquisite flavour like no other. I preserved quite a lot over the last week or so and made a batch of jam, and now I’m looking for more. There are other varieties around to work with though. I love cherry plums, not so much for bottling as their skins tend to stay bitter, no matter how strong the sugar syrup or the length of time in the bottles. One of my favourite jams, a close second to third to raspberry or greengage, is yellow cherry plum jam.
However, other than cherry plums, I bottle any plums I can get my hands on. They are excellent for breakfast with cereal or yoghurt, or as a simple warming winter pudding, warmed through and served with custard. You can drain them and remove the stone, then put them on top of a tea cake or butter cake before baking. When the cake comes from the oven, simply brush the top with a little melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and the cake is transformed from the ordinary to something extraordinary, almost continental.
Plums, especially cherry plums come to think of it, make excellent cordial syrup. I can put this recipe up if anyone wants it, as well as a plum jam recipe – just let me know.
However, for the moment I thought the most useful thing would be the method for preserving plums. If you don’t have a preserving outfit (such as Fowlers Vacola make), you can still preserve on the stovetop in a very large pot with a lid. In that case, you need to put a rack in the bottom and a thermometer to check the temperature. Also if using a pot on the stove, you need to put a layer of newspaper between the bottles to stop them clanging together. A preserving outfit is well worth the outlay, trust me – it makes preserving so simple.
By the way, it’s best not to remove the stones before bottling – otherwise the pretty much turn to mush on the jar, which is ok if you are aiming for stewed plums of course.
- Place rings on clean preserving jars (if using Fowlers bottles)
- Choose and make the selected preserving syrup** (see below)
- Layer the plums neatly and firmly in bottles
- Pour the selected preserving liquid over the plums right to the brim
- Place lids on jars and secure with clips, or if using screw top jars, screw lids on, then release just slightly
- Place in preserving outfit
- Bring to 85°C, making sure that this takes at least an hour
- Hold at this temperature for 35 minutes for jars containing up to 12 cups of product, an extra 30 minutes for larger
- Remove from preserver and place on a wooden board. If using screw top jars, screw lid on tightly now
- Leave to stand for 24 hours
- Remove clips (if using Fowlers jars). Check that lids are concave
- Store in a cool, dark place
** The preserving liquid can be water, fruit juice or sugar syrup. For plums I prefer at least a medium syrup. Here are three different strengths of syrup – they are only a guide – you can vary it to suit your personal taste.
Light Syrup: one part sugar, four parts water
Medium Syrup: one part sugar to two parts water
Heavy Syrup: equal parts sugar and water.
I make this syrup up in a plastic jug. For a heavy syrup half fill the jug with sugar, add enough boiling water to dissolve the sugar, then fill the remainder of the jug with cold water/. The syrup is then ready to use.